Four months away from Georgia’s first trip to Clemson’s Death Valley in a decade, some former Bulldogs players sized up this year’s highly anticipated matchup.
“The first thought of that game is whichever defense can hold them under 30,” David Pollack, a three-time All-American defensive end for Georgia from 2002-04, said Monday. “That’s the first thing that comes to mind. It’s just because both teams are experienced and you figure with the quarterback spots, they’re going to play pretty well.”
Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd will be in the national spotlight in the 8 p.m. game on ABC on Aug. 31 in what could be a top-10 matchup.
Pollack said he’s “pretty sure” that ESPN’s College GameDay will make Clemson the site of its broadcast that week. Pollack is among the on-air personalities for the popular show.
“If you can go to Death Valley with those fans, they’ve got some great fans, man,” Pollack said before the Celebrity Pro-Am of this week’s Stadion Classic at UGA. “It’s an SEC-type atmosphere.”
Added Lindsay Scott, who played receiver for Georgia from 1978-81 when the Bulldogs went 2-2 against Clemson: “Clemson’s going to be tough. Especially up there. I tell you. It’s hard to play up there. They’ve got a big house up there. They’ll be ready. That’s scary. … That’s a hell of a game to open up with.”
An 11th-ranked Georgia team coming off its first SEC title in 20 years went on the road and thumped Clemson 30-0 to open the 2003 season in the team’s last meeting before a crowd of 83,000. Those Tigers were coming off a 7-6 season.
“All I remember is it was 900 degrees,” said David Greene, Georgia’s starting quarterback in back-to-back wins against the Tigers in 2002 and 2003. “Other than the score.”
“That was a heiney spanking,” Pollack said of that 2003 rout that followed a 31-28 win over Clemson in 2002 in Athens.
Greene hit Fred Gibson on a 56-yard post pattern for a touchdown to get the scoring going in the 2003 game. Clemson was held to 199 total yards by a defense missing six players due to injury and suspension.
This time, Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo returns all of his starters from the program’s highest scoring offense except for receiver Tavarres King.
“I know Coach Bobo’s licking his chops,” Greene said.
Clemson is coming off an 11-2 season, the first time it’s won that many games since 1981.
“I think it will be great,” Pollack said. “The first thing that pops off is Murray-Boyd. Both those guys could have left early. Both undersized quarterbacks. This will be Tajh’s third year as a starter, Aaron’s fourth year as a starter. So, I think about that and the offenses and high-flying and both returning.”
Georgia has won five consecutive in the series against Clemson and leads the all-time series 41-17-4, but had some memorable battles in the late ’70s and ’80s.
“It’s got a lot of history to it,” said former Georgia offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb, who is retired from the NFL after playing for the New Orleans Saints from 2003-10. “Being from the area, those are two schools competing on the recruiting trail, so why not put it out on the field and get after it a little bit?”